Wednesday 25 January 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Firewind - "Immortals"

By: Nathan Harrison

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 20/01/2017
Label: Century Media Records

Let’s make one thing clear – if you don’t like power metal you will not like this album, but for a power metal fan, this is an unashamedly over-the-top treat.

“Immortals” CD//DD//LP track listing:

01. Hands Of Time
02. We Defy
03. Ode To Leonidas
04. Back On The Throne
05. Live And Die By The Sword
06. Wars Of Ages
07. Lady Of 1000 Sorrows
08. Immortals
09. Warriors And Saints
10. Rise From The Ashes

The Review:

With the exception of the occasional anomaly such as Blind Guardian or, more recently, Sabaton, power metal continues to be perennially unpopular here in the UK. Given their position as stalwarts of the genre for nearly 20 years and guitarist and mainman Gus G’s ongoing stint as six-stringer for the living legend that is Ozzy Osbourne, it is surprising that Greek quintet Firewind are yet to be counted amongst the bands that buck an unfortunate trend (their upcoming tour sees them playing some of Britain’s pokiest club venues). This omission is made even more baffling by the sheer quality of “Immortals”, their 8th studio effort, a bombastic concept album about the 300 Spartans and the Battle of Thermopylae.

Let’s make one thing clear – if you don’t like power metal you will not like this album. All the traits of the genre are here in full force: wailing vocals, shredding guitars and liberal use of lead keyboards. For a power metal fan, however, this is an unashamedly over-the-top treat.

‘Hands of Time’, in true concept album opener style, sets out the band’s mission statement, signalling the exultant and triumphant tone that permeates all of the records ten short, snappy tracks. ‘We Defy’ bursts in with a driving riff which more than matches its title, the choruses’ gang vocals giving a militaristic edge to proceedings which suits the concept well whilst forming a nice foil to the so-powerful-you-can-almost-hear-his-diaphragm-bursting vocals of new singer, Henning Basse to wonderful effect. ‘Ode to Leonidas’ opens with a melancholic acoustic intro, which brings the bombast back down to earth for a few seconds before a booming, Shakespearean voice speaks a soliloquy in the character of the doomed King of Sparta. While it is most certainly cheesy, it deftly paints a picture of the story the band are trying to tell, focusing on the attitudes of the Spartans rather than just the noise of battle, which would be too easy to focus on in a power metal album. By the time the track properly begins in all its glory, the human side of the story has been well and truly brought to the fore.

While ‘Back on the Throne’ retains the key sound that Firewind are known for, things take a slightly more hard rock turn, with a chorus full of the attitude and swagger found in some of the more up-tempo songs from the Dio era of Black Sabbath, such as ‘The Mob Rules’. Another atmospheric intro kicks off ‘Live and Die by the Sword’, Basse showing a gentler side to his voice, backed by Petros Christo’s mournful bass line, giving the main thrust of the song even more impact when it slams in, in suitably traditional metal fashion.

If the ‘power’ needed putting in ‘power metal’ any more by this point then ‘Wars of Ages’ and ‘Lady of 1000 Sorrows’ add a little extra just in case, the former with its stomping verses reminiscent of the 80s power pop that punctuated the biggest films of the era, the latter with a foray into the power ballad, providing a break from the in-your-face approach whilst still retaining the quintessentially European levels of cheese, right down to a cracking drum fill before the final chorus.

For a track that clocks in at under 2 minutes, instrumental interlude ‘Immortals’ is surprisingly epic, mixing thrashy guitar work with unrelenting double kick and impactful keyboard backing. For the penultimate number ‘Warriors and Saints’ Gus G resists the urge to back the soaring chorus with simple power chords, instead opting to sweep pick for dear life, creating a frantic and thunderous wall of noise. ‘Rise from the Ashes’ closes things out in style, with reflective verses leading into an epic, defiant chorus.

‘Epic’ and ‘defiant’ would in fact be the best two adjectives with which to describe this band. ‘Epic’ is an obvious one – just stick “Immortals” on your stereo and we need say no more. The defiance is evident in their career to date – for a band to have been doing what they do for so long, going against all of the ever changing trends there have been in metal over the past couple of decades and to still be putting out albums of this standard is truly admirable. Firewind have proved that they are, indeed, immortals.

Immortals” is available now

Band info: official || facebook